The Bookseller - 27.05.11 | Lisa Campbell
If the HMV Group's shareholders approve Alexander Mamut's £53m offer made in the early hours of last Friday, then James Daunt, founder of six London-based shops under the Daunt Books umbrella, will soon become managing director of the book chain he acknowledged had "not been performing very well recently". Like-for-like sales dived by 8.4% in the 17 weeks to 30th April at Waterstone's; over the year like-for-like sales dropped by 3.8%.
While Waterstone's year-end profits are expected to be between £9m and £12m, Daunt was adamant the chain would not be a hobby interest for billionaire Mamut but a passion in which they both held "a firm view of what it is we are trying to achieve".
Mamut said the pair wanted to reposition Waterstone's as a regional and local community-orientated bookseller. Daunt added that the Russian was drawn to it "because he is a book person who shares my belief that if you create really good bookshops, they will be commercially successful".
"This is not Chelsea Football Club, that isn't the idea here. He is doing it because he understands it as I believe I understand it. He will not be keeping it up by writing large cheques each year," he said.
Mamut said: "I am firmly of the view that there will be an enduring demand for physical bookshops, which are cultural centres within local communities, and that there is now an opportunity to renew Waterstone's focus on providing a distinctive, high-quality bookselling service which will underpin that."
Daunt, who is expected to take up his post on 2nd July, said he believes value matters to customers, but added his previous admission of a dislike for three-for-two book offers was a personal preference. He said: "I do not like them. I like cheap books—if it is £9 instead of £10 I will buy it for £9. Quite clearly, value really matters."
The former banker intends to better understand how Waterstone's operates before deciding on a business strategy but underlined that digital was clearly important, along with tailoring Waterstone's stores to match local customers' needs.
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